Archive for the ‘Bay Area News’ Category

Cluck Yeah! Two New Downtown San Francisco Fried Chicken Sandwiches!

New Fried Chicken Sandwich at The Bird
The Bird’s fried chicken sandwich offers a juicy, succulent piece of fried chicken complimented by a slightly sweet apple based slaw on a brioche bun.

New Fried Chicken Sandwich at Organic Coup
Organic Coup’s fried chicken sandwich offers a slightly larger piece of chicken with a tangy and spicy slaw with jalapeno on an equally tasty bun.

Downtown San Franciscans were treated to not one but two new fried chicken sandwiches this week in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District. Two new restaurants, Organic Coup and The Bird are both located a mere 2 blocks off of Market Street. Organic Coup North of Market at 224 Kearny and The Bird South of Market located at 115 Montgomery.

The Bird is open Monday through Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

Organic Coup is open 11am to 3pm Monday through Friday for lunch.

Since who the cluck doesn’t like fried chicken sandwiches, I tried both this week and thought I’d write a few thoughts on each of these fine new chicken coops. My co-worker Sam Greene joined me (because birds of feather stick together) and I’ve added his thoughts on each section of this review.

Let the great San Francisco Cluck Off begin!

Organically Cocky at the Organic Coup
Organically Cocky at the Organic Coup.

The Bird, Fried Chx Sandwiches 200 Daily, #Cluck Yeah
The Bird, Fried Chx Sandwiches, 200 Daily #CluckYeah.

Waiting for a new fried chicken sandwich at The Bird
50 Deep in line at The Bird. Get there early and plan on a wait.

Ordering. (Winner: tie)

Although it’s probably not fair to compare the foot traffic at both of these restaurants on opening week, plan on spending a lot more time waiting for your chicken sandwich at The Bird than Organic Coup.

I arrived to a line already 50 deep at 11:10 am Friday at The Bird. The wait was approximately half an hour from start to finish. By contrast you get in and out of Organic Coup much faster. I went to Organic Coup on Wednesday and Thursday at 11:10am and there was no line. On Friday I went to Organic Coup after the Bird at around 11:45am and the wait still was only about 4 people for about 5 minutes.

Organic Coup had a very efficient ordering system. An order taker walks you through your order on an iPad. You make your designation side by side and then when you swipe your credit card the system automatically pulls your name and then uses your name to call you when your order is ready. The Bird offers a more formal across the counter cash register based system where they print out a receipt for you to sign. They do capture your name from your card as well though and use it to call your order.

Organic Coup has a sign up by the order taker that says no cash / no tipping. On their website they say that they are committed to paying their workers a livable wage and say that they “pay the highest wages in the industry.” With tax their sandwich is $11.

By contrast the Bird has you either write in or decline a tip on your credit card receipt when you sign. Their sandwich is cheaper at $9 with tax no tip.

I will write more on the whole tip no tip thing below, but I will say I liked the fact that Organic Coup doesn’t allow cash. Cash tends to slow things down and pretty much everybody has a credit or debit card these days.

I would clearly give the win to Organic Coup here based on the faster service, except for the fact that The Bird had a server come outside to the line and give everyone in the line a free sample of their clucking amazing ice cream sandwich, one of the best I’ve ever tried. Not only did they hand out free samples to the line, the guy handing out the samples came by afterwards to take everyone’s trash from the sample that was handed out. Such thoughtfulness and such an amazing treat made the line totally worth it. That was very smart. So the verdict here is a tie but both were pretty clucking great.


Ordering (winner: Organic Coup)

I’m a big believer in the holistic evaluation process so it is hard for me to say which restaurant offers an absolutely better ordering system. I would start by saying the ordering systems are different. The Organic Coup offers a clucking-efficient iPad based self-service ordering system while The Bird offers the more traditional cash-transaction at the register system. I personally like the iPad self-service system much better for a few reasons. For starters, the pressure of having to field a barrage of questions at the counter is completely removed with the iPads. Additionally, what’s nice about ordering on the iPad is that it gives me a little more time to consider what options are available before making my selection. This way you don’t have to fumble over your words dictating your order to the cashier while you’re looking at the menu. Sure, it may be a bit awkward and anti-social to prefer the iPad system, but the reality is that ordering through the iPad is much easier and simpler for all parties involved and saves everybody a little bit of time.

However, since the fried chicken sandwich itself is a bit simpler at The Bird in that there is only a spicy and non-spicy option as opposed to an overwhelming assortment of sauces to add and choose from at the Organic Coup, I didn’t feel like the register-based system slowed down the ordering process significantly. Overall, I think the two are tied for the best ordering system. The Bird’s products don’t complicate ordering at the register, and Organic Coups iPad system nicely handles more complicated orders.

Cost (Winner: tie)

Sure the sandwich at Organic Coup is two clucks more, but the fact that there is no pressure to tip and apparently you can feel ok about not tipping because of the living wage thing, it sort of makes up for the extra cost. If you tip a buck at the Bird, the sandwich still comes in a dollar cheaper, but I’m sort of a fan of including gratuity in the price of a product which feels more like what Organic Coup is doing. It would be interesting to know how much each place pays their workers, but to me there’s not much difference between paying $11/no tip or $10 or $11 with manual tip.

Atmosphere (Winner: tie)

Both sandwich shops feel really nice although just a little crowded. Organic Coup feels a little more like a chain/corporate (and with multiple locations it sort of is) vs. the pop up feel of The Bird. The Bird (which is in the space that the old Melt use to use) has some seating which is nice if you want to eat your sandwich there. Seating is very limited, but at least they have some. I usually take my lunch to go though so seating didn’t matter to me. The Bird offers you a water cup which is nice. Organic Coup is more open and airy and light in my opinion — both are very nice and clean.

Both restaurants had people with menus outside greeting you. Both restaurants had friendly employees. Both restaurants were marketing with the San Francisco “Cluck Yeah” tag line sure to appeal to millennials everywhere. The Bird uses a hashtag based #CLUCKYEAH while Organic Coup chose to go with an exclamation point based CLUCK YEAH!


Both shops were nice, clean and up to snuff. However, I feel like the Bird may have a slight edge in the overall atmosphere. Fist and foremost, the Bird has a larger space that is big enough to offer counters, seating, and complimentary water and bathrooms. Keep in mind though that around 11:00am when we went the place was hustling and bustling so it was difficult to find a place to stand and lean let alone sit and dine, so if you’re looking for a place to enjoy a leisurely meal I would look elsewhere. That being said, the fact that seating is available for less rushed and frenzied times during the day is a huge plus for me.

In contrast, the smaller, more cooped up space at the Organic Coup (no pun intended), did not feel large enough to adequately handle the 11:00am rush of lunch-goers who inevitably end up waiting on the sidewalk. Granted, the line at the The Bird wound around the block as well when we went — however, once all the hype dies down from the opening weeks for each location I think The Bird will be more attractive to a larger percentage of the lunch-going population since it does offer a place to sit. In light of all that, the smaller space offered by the Organic Coup is nice in that it sort of naturally moves folks along in and out of the building faster since nobody likes to stand around in claustrophobic, shoulder-to-shoulder, tight-knit spaces for long. If your intention is to grab your food and go, the Organic Coup is perfect. However, given the choice, I would rather have the option to sit and schmooze over a quick bite with a co-worker than feel rushed in and out of the place.

Secondly, the Bird felt like it actually had a personality. The interior design maintained what appeared to be the original look and architecture of the establishment that preceded The Bird. As a matter of personal preference, I thought it was nice that The Bird chose to maintain the integrity of style rather than give it a radical makeover to conform to the recognizable and modern look. There is an aura of traditional, classic fried chicken sandwich shop that emanates from the old-school single-letter-insert-menu hanging down from the ceiling. Overall The Bird presents itself as more of unique local, self-sufficient, one-of-a-kind joint while the Organic Coup is more of a modern and contemporary fast-food chain.

I have to hand this one to The Bird.

Nutrition (Winner: Organic Coup)

Organic Coup markets itself as America’s first USDA certified organic fast food restaurant. What’s more, they provide you with calorie nutritional information on their website. According to their website their Chicken Sandwich is 500 calories. For such a big fried sandwich I almost can not believe it is only 500 calories. They also offer a bowl, which is more like a fried chicken salad, with only 320 calories. For someone like me trying to maintain my sleek physique, those numbers are very reasonable and I appreciated that they shared them with me on their website.

The Bird does not provide nutritional information on their website. Based on the taste of their sandwich though (and the fact that it has mayo on it), I’d suspect it’s more than 500 calories.


I have to agree with the Hawk here. I think it’s clucking-smart that the Organic Coup makes an effort to disclose nutritional facts on its website to its frequenters. In the age of the IoT, information is data and data is power to the consumer. As a consumer, I feel clucking-empowered by nutritional information in what I’m choosing to buy and eat, even though the information may not necessarily ultimately drive my decision. For example, I may find that the Organic Coup is less calories than The Bird, but I may still like the bird better since it has those incredible pickles. Merely the fact that Organic Coup openly shares with us the nutritional facts so transparently makes me more trusting of them as a restaurant regardless of whether or not their sandwich is any healthier, less caloric or has overall more nutritional value than The Birds. Props to Organic Coup on this one.

The Sandwich (Winner: The Bird, by a beak)

First off, I have to say I liked both sandwiches. I will definitely be back to both in the future.

Organic Coup’s sandwich reminded me very much of one of my favorite East Bay secrets, the fried chicken sandwich at Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland only on a tasty bun instead of a roll. Organic Coup uses a vinegar based slaw with jalapenos in it just like Betty does. This is also the base for the slab of fried chicken that they serve with their bowl (which is more like a fried chicken slaw salad) and it is clucking delicious. You get a choice of four sauces for your bowl/wrap/sandwich. I got my sandwich with the vegan mustard vinaigrette sauce. The sauce was good but the irony that they were marketing my choice of sauce as “vegan” when I was eating a fried chicken sandwich was not lost on me. The spicy BBQ sauce seemed the most popular.

Organic Coup’s piece of friend chicken felt a little bit bigger to me than The Bird’s and hangs out of both sides of the sandwich.

As much as I enjoyed Organic Coup’s sandwich, The Bird edged it out here by a beak. Given the mayonnaise on the sandwich it definitely made it taste a bit richer. More than the mayonnaise though the chicken itself was more tender, flavorful and succulent. The Bird’s bird was a juicy, flavorful, delicious piece of mouthwatering bliss. The Bird’s sandwich had less slaw than Organic Coup’s but the slaw itself was a cabbage-onion-apple based slaw which gave it just the slight amount of sweetness that went perfectly with the spicy flavor. It also had Super Duper pickles on it which added a nice finishing touch.

The Bird had two versions of their signature sandwich, spicy and non-spicy. I of course opted for spicy and I’m glad I did.


The Sandwich (The Bird, it was beak-and-beak the whole way through)

Both places offer un-clucking-believable fried chicken sandwiches. Both offer great, high-quality sandwiches sure to satisfy any afternoon deep-fried craving San Franciscan dropping by for quick bite to eat. The Bird differentiates itself from the Organic Coup in a few notable ways. While both offer delicious crunchy deep fried gustatory experiences, The Bird seems to let their birds simmer a bit longer in the pan allowing a thicker, deeper-fried coat to form. The deeper-fried coat made it all the more delicious and rich, though perhaps slightly less healthy. Additionally, the sandwich served at the Bird championed an artfully infused African Berber spice in the batter that was a flavorful and interesting homage to the origins of the fried chicken sandwich.

The coleslaw prepared at the Organic Coup offered more intense, spicier coleslaw than The Bird though. It beautifully complimented the spicy BBQ sauce served with the sandwich that I had chosen. Additionally, the Organic Coup offered a much larger chunk of chicken than The Bird which made me feel like I was getting better value for the two extra clucks I paid.

However, although Organic Coup made an eggs-ellent final product, the bird at the The Bird was slightly more succulent and juicy than at The Organic Coup. I’m pretty sure there was an element of marketing responsible for this perception though. Since I knew in advance that the Bird only made 200 sandwiches a day for the lunch crowd I think I was primed to believe they put more TLC, attention and energy into making each sandwich perfect than the Organic Coup. Upon deeper reflection, however, I do not think the modern fast-food nature of the Organic Coup takes away from the quality of their artfully though more industrially crafted sandwiches. It was just an observation I made when writing this review. I simply think I got a bit luckier at the Bird at the time I went in regards to the juiciness factor of the chicken. All in all, The Bird stood out to me as overall slightly tastier due to the tenderness of the meat and the deliciousness of the deep-fry recipe despite its shortcoming in size compared to the Organic Coup.

The Logo (Winner: The Bird)

Very hipster San Francisco looking fox with a chicken sandwich in his mouth, would also look good on a Bon Iver album cover.

I didn’t really get into the extras beyond the fried chicken sandwiches in this review, but it is also worth pointing out that The Bird sells beer which may be a plus for some while by contrast Organic Coup offers fresh squeezed lemonade. I have a general rule that I don’t consume alcohol before 6pm so I can’t imagine having a beer at lunch, but for more thirstier friends that might be a good option to know about.

The bottom line is both of these new fried chicken sandwiches are abso-clucking-lutely delicious. So the next time you and your cluck buddy get a craving for some fried chicken sandwich for lunch try one of these two hen houses. You won’t be disappointed and you might even get a free sample of some ice cream sandwich to go with it.

Cluck Yeah!
Cluck Yeah with an exclamation mark instead of the hashtag.

No Cash, No Tips
No Cash and No Tipping at the Organic Coup.

Organic Looks Good on You
Organic Looks Good on You at the Organic Coup.

Lemonade at the Bird
Fresh Squeezed Lemonade at Organic Coup.

The Organic Coup
Standing outside Organic Coup on Kearny Street.

The Bird, Fried Chx, Beer
Interior shot of The Bird.

Hot Box Photo MeetUp, Mare Island, Vallejo, CA, March 20th — UPDATE CANCELLED

UPDATE: Due to the heavy rain scheduled for tonight we are cancelling this photowalk. We’ll reschedule Mare Island soon.

A group of us from the Hot Box Uncensored group on Flickr are going to be getting together on Sunday March 20th for an evening of shooting out on Mare Island in Vallejo. Sunset is approx 7:21pm that night, so we’ll plan on meeting at 6:30pm and then shoot the last hour or so of day light into the sunset and into the night. We’ll have a full moon that night so it should make for some fun night shooting. After we’re all done, for those who would like, we can go hit up a local bar in Vallejo somewhere there and catch up.

All are welcome from beginners to experts, bring your tripod if you have one. 🙂

You can follow this thread on Flickr to get more of the details as the meetup progresses.

A few photos of mine from previous outings to Mare Island below.

There's More Than One Way Off the Island

Artship, Plate 2

Before the Flood

Lights Went Out

Oakland Protests the Johannes Mehserle Verdict

This Modern Sheriff

Yesterday afternoon and evening a few hundred protesters protested the verdict handed down to Johannes Mehserle for the charge of involuntary manslaughter over the killing of Oscar Grant. A Los Angeles judge sentenced Mehserle to two years in prison with credit for time served, considered by many the shortest sentence he possibly could have received.

Angered at the verdict, protesters began arriving at the Oakland City Hall steps at about 2pm. The protest around City Hall was peaceful and many members of the community took turns speaking for a number of hours. For the most part the speeches seemed to just be people angry with the outcome. There were a few protesters who called for violence — that someone should put a bullet in Mehserle’s back as soon as he gets out of prison and that people should burn Oakland to the ground.

The police largely kept away from the protest during the speeches but emerged after the City Hall rally ended and people began marching in the streets. The march splintered off into several smaller groups, some who burned cars and vandalized parts of East Oakland. The Bay Citizen reports that Oakland PD arrested over 100.

I mostly stayed around Broadway and 14th Street after the protest with my wife, Keoki Seu and Troy Holden shooting portraits of mostly Marin cops who had been brought in as reinforcements while the Oakland PD and helicopters followed the crowd and violence into East Oakland. I was pretty happy with a lot of the portraits I got last night.

You can see my complete set of images from yesterday afternoon/evening’s protest here.

2010 San Bruno Pipeline Explosion

Burned Home, San Bruno Gas Line Explosion, 2010

See a slideshow of my San Bruno pipeline explosion photos here.

See my San Bruno pipeline explosion set here.

I took these photos on the morning of September 19th of some of the damage from the San Bruno PG&E pipeline explosion. As of this morning, most of the disaster area is still heavily guarded by various law enforcement agencies.

More from wikipedia.

The 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion occurred at 6:11 p.m. PDT on September 9, 2010, in San Bruno, California, when a 30 inch steel natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric exploded in flames.

The loud roar and shaking led some residents of the area, first responders, and news media to initially believe that it was an earthquake or that a large airplane from nearby San Francisco International Airport had crashed. It took crews nearly an hour to determine it was a gas pipeline explosion.[

Reports about the number of deaths are conflicting. According to the San Bruno chief of police seven were dead and six were missing as of Saturday September 11, but the coroner’s office questioned the information from the police department, stating only four deaths were confirmed. Many were hospitalized with injuries. 37 homes were destroyed by the blaze, with about 8 badly damaged. USGS registered the explosion and resulting shock wave as a magnitude 1.1 earthquake. Eye witnesses reported the initial blast “had a wall of fire more than 1000 feet high”.

Had a Great Time Photowalking Last Night at the Albany Bulb

Figures on a Beach

Thanks to all who came out last night for Scott Kelby’s Third Annual Worldwide Photowalk that we held out at the Albany Bulb in the East Bay. The weather was a bit chilly but it was a great evening to be shooting out there. We started our walk about 6:15 and headed back into the Bulb to shoot some amazing sculpture that local artists have sort of spontaneously installed there. We continued shooting around the Bulb, said hi to few local residents, and ended up at the Castle (this sort of man made concrete structure) where we shot the sunset. After the sun set a group of us headed over to Spenger’s in Berkeley where we had a few drinks and for some of us some dinner.

Overall I was pretty happy with how things went last night. I’ve led a lot of photowalks in the past, but this was the first time I’d led a Scott Kelby one. I thought Kelby and his team were pretty organized in terms of putting the basics together to help team leaders put on these walks. There were 1,111 different photowalks yesterday, all over the planet and over 33,000 different photographers participating. That’s huge!

Those participants who registered prior to the event will have until July 31 to submit what they feel is their best photo from the walk for the contest. Also if everyone who went on the walk could tag their images with worldwidephotowalk2010 that would be great. I’ve also started a group on Flickr for our Albany Bulb walk where those who came can post photos from the walk.

Several on last night’s walks were on their first photowalk. Others were photowalking veterans. It was great catching up with so many old friends and getting to meet some new ones as well. If you went on the walk I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The Bulb is a magical place and I think we got it just right heading out there at sunset.

Some of you on the walk asked about the history of the Bulb. The following is taken from the Bulb’s wikipedia page:

The Bulb was created in 1963, after the City of Albany and Santa Fe, which owned the land, signed a contract for the disposal of construction debris. Lawsuits against the landfill operator brought the dumping to a halt in 1987. Following the lawsuit, the shoreline associated with The Bulb became part of The Eastshore State Park, while the City of Albany maintained ownership of The Bulb itself. Today, 99% of The Bulb is owned by the City of Albany, the other 1% being owned by East Bay Regional Park District.

There is a site devoted to news on the Bulb here.

I’ve posted my set of images from last night’s walk here, I’ll be adding more to it in the days, weeks and months ahead. For those of you who are interested in doing another photowalk next month, Invisible Cirkus is coming to town from Miami and we’ve got another one scheduled in San Francisco’s Mission District on August 22.

Oakland Police Department Takes Photos From Flickr and Asks for the Public’s Help in Identifying Looters

Looter Runs Down Broadway With Items Taken From Foot Locker, Oakland Riots, 2010

I saw an article on the the San Francisco Chronicle web site today entitled “Oakland Police Looking for Looting Suspects.” The article reports on the Oakland Police Department’s latest efforts to prosecute looters who participated in last week’s Johannes Merserle protest that turned violent with rioting and looting taking place after dark. Oakland PD has now released a number of photos of alleged looters from that evening’s protest.

The people in the photos are “involved criminal activity” and could face arrest and prosecution, said Officer Jeff Thomason, a police spokesman.

Interestingly enough I recognized several of the photographs that the Oakland PD had released as my own photos that I’d taken the night of the riots and had posted to my own Flickr account. I was never contacted by the Oakland PD regarding their use or distribution by Oakland PD. It’s interesting to see law enforcement taking photos by citizen media and using them this way. I wonder about the legality behind this sort of use. Would the Oakland PD be able to also rebroadcast or redistribute photos or video from established mainstream media? And I wonder if the police have to abide by the copyrights of individual photographers in redistributing their work or if they have some sort of legal protection.

Oakland Riots After Johannes Mehserle Verdict of Involuntary Manslaughter

Protestor Flips Off Police Officers While Smoking a Joint, Oakland Riots 2010

You can see a complete set of my images from last night’s riots here.

Last night protesters in Oakland, CA rioted after a Los Angeles jury convicted former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle of Involuntary Manslaughter. Mehserle, a whilte police officer, had been on trial for a highly visible shooting of black Oscar Grant in the back during a 2009 New Year’s Day incident at the Fruitvale BART station.

Protesters had been planning for over a week to meet at the corner of Broadway and 14th streets in Downtown Oakland after the verdict was announced to respond. Local community leaders and activists had been advocating a peaceful gathering after the verdict, but last night’s gathering in the end turned violent as many suspected it would.

I attended the protest from the announcement of the verdict at about 4:10pm until police declared the area an unlawful assembly and ordered everyone to leave the area or be arrested at about 9pm — covering a lot of it on Twitter at the time. The protest was also heavily covered by Bay Area news media.

When I first arrived at the corner at 4pm the tension was pretty high. There was a small group of people (maybe 50) mostly composed of news media, photographers and a handful of protesters. Protesters were hoping that Mehserle would be convicted of 2nd degree murder. When he came in as not guilty of 2nd degree murder and instead only guilty of involuntary manslaughter, people immediately started reacting. Mostly it was just individual protesters giving loud speeches for the TV cameras. Many of the speeches were very inflammatory with one protester saying that white people needed to be murdered. At this point there were no police in sight.

As the crowd grew, protesters decided to take over the intersection of 14th and Broadway. One protester blocked a bus in the intersection which was quickly surrounded by other protesters. This is when the police showed up. At first a small group of officers made their way towards the bus in a small police ATV with a loudspeaker/crowd control device on the top. They demanded that protesters let the bus go though. They had since blocked off Broadway to other traffic. Tension was very high and protesters immediately began to crowd towards the ATV and it had to rapidly reverse course so as not to get surrounded. A police car also made its way to rescue the bus but it too was almost engulfed in people. The police car quickly went into reverse and a woman was knocked down. Protesters claimed that the police ran over and injured the woman.

Police Arrive In ATV With Sound Blasting System on Top, Oakland Riots, 2010

F*ck the Police, Oakland Riots, 2010Protestor Holds Up Bus In Intersection, Oakland RiotsRioters Begin Looting Foot Locker, Oakland Riots, 2010Riot Police Hold Line at 15th and Broadway, Oakland Riots, 2010

Police then held a riot line in full riot gear on 13th Street just West of Broadway. Here protesters began taunting the riot police (see photo at top). Protesters were demanding that the police take a police report for running over the woman. They demanded that they help the woman but the police wouldn’t break their line and told protesters that emergency professionals were on the way to assist the woman.

Oakland PD had been training for these riots and quickly surrounded Broadway street with riot police lines effectively containing everybody in an area between 13th and 15th on Broadway. For the next few hours things seemed to really calm down after this. The police held their riot lines but allowed people in and out of the protest area. Several speakers including Oscar Grant’s grandfather gave speeches on a loudspeaker at the corner of Broadway and 14th calling for peace and trying to keep the crowd from turning violent.

The first business to be vandalized that I saw was a Subway Sandwich shop. Protesters broke the windows of the store. It was about this time that the Oakland PD decided to begin containing the crowd and moved the riot line from 13th Street up Broadway. This is when things started to get ugly. There were some heated interactions with protesters that quickly turned violent as police began yanking a few protesters in their way out of the way and arresting them. They forced their way about halfway up Broadway between 13th and 14th Streets and commanded on their loudspeakers that people move North on Broadway.

People started then throwing rocks and bottles at the riot police. The riot police largely ignored this activity and held their lines. The California Highway Patrol rolled in as reinforcement and handled a big part of the Northern riot line. Protesters were angry and upset with some of the CHP officers who had brought assault style weaponry with them.

Protesters then turned violent on the businesses mostly between 14th and 15th Streets on Broadway. Most of the businesses on this stretch of Broadway had their windows broken out. Some of the businesses had been boarded up and so looters could not get in. But looters did manage to get into the Foot Locker and began stealing all of the merchandise in the store. At this point the police all of a sudden made some very rapid pushes up Broadway which startled the crowd and sent everyone running the other way up Broadway. Several protesters were violently yanked from the front of the line and pulled back and arrested.

It had grown dark by this time and rioters were also setting many small fires around the area in the trashcans and with debris from the Foot Locker store. It was at this point, at about 9pm, that police began to squeeze all of the protesters into a smaller and smaller space. At it’s height there were probably about 3,000 or so protesters in the area I’d estimate. By dark though there were probably only about 400 or so left. It was then that police came on their loudspeakers informing the crowd that they were an unlawful assembly and told everyone that anyone in the area would be subject to immediate arrest.

Protesters continued vandalizing the area mostly damaging storefronts and police cars which where parked on Broadway. At this point I decided to leave to avoid arrest and went down to the 19th Street BART station. Shortly after I entered the BART station they closed the station which was heavily patrolled by BART police in RIOT gear. At that point they directed people to the 12th Street BART station which had heavily patrolled and controlled entrances.

From news reports that I watched after that they said that smaller bands of rioters continued to riot in areas around 17th Street, but that the majority of the crowd had been dispersed. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums along with Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts monitored the situation from a command center and the police continued to arrest protesters that they could on the streets.

Overall I have to give credit to the Oakland PD for the way that they handled this very dangerous situation. I was impressed with their professionalism and how well they managed to prevent the crowd from turning into a much bigger riot than it was. It was a very tough night to be a cop in Oakland and you could tell from their own facial expressions that they were under a tremendous amount of stress maintaining the peace.

While there were very dramatic incidents where they arrested protesters, I thought that generally speaking they treated everybody there with respect, despite the taunting that they took. They obviously had been planning and training for this verdict for a while and I thought that last night that paid off for them. The crowd was much larger than the riots that I covered over the same incdient in Oakland last year but they were able to much better control the situation.

This year a few other photographers and I had arranged to shoot the protest ahead of time and much of the night I spent shooting with Troy Holden, Stuart Dixon, Travis Jensen and Keoki Seu. Be sure to check out their photos as well at their photostreams linked above. Troy, Stuart and Travis also all shoot for Caliber where they also have some of their best images.

Oakland Braces for Possible Riots

Oakland Braces For Possible Riots

Many of the businesses in Downtown Oakland boarded up their store fronts this afternoon in anticipation of a potential verdict in the Johannes Mersehle murder trial. Mersehle, a white BART police officer is being tried for the murder of black Oscar Grant. Grant was shot in the back while laying face down at a Fruitvale BART station in the early morning of last New Year’s Day.

The jury in the case went into deliberation this afternoon. If the jury does not announce a verdict today they will reconvene to deliberate on Tuesday after the 4th of July Holiday weekend.

Downtown Oakland was pretty quiet earlier this afternoon. A few men were selling Oscar Grant signs and t-shirts on the corner of 14th and Broadway where protestors are expected to gather after the verdict. In addition to many of the stores downtown being boarded up, many of the stores also had signs in their windows in support of Oscar Grant.

Over the last few days local community and business leaders have been urging people in Oakland to remain calm and respond peacefully to any verdict that is announced.

In 2009 riots erupted in Oakland in response to the shooting. Oakland PD have been training for riots recently and it is reported that several other Bay Area police departments and the National Guard are on standby in case Oakland PD needs help after a verdict is announced.

You can see my set of images from last year’s riots here.



The fully armed Russian warship Varyag left San Francisco earlier this morning. The warship was the first Russian surface warship to visit San Francisco in 147 years and was sent here in the “spirit of friendship,” according to Russian Rear Admiral Vladimir Kastonov.

The warship’s visit coincided with Russian President Dmitry Medvedv’s visit this past week to Silicon Valley where he met with a number of technology companies and executives.

Ships like the Varyag are known as “the killer of aircraft carriers” as they can launch very large explosives or tactical nuclear warheads up to 300 miles away. The ship has sixteen distinctive missiles in four pairs on both sides of the ship.

Victoria Kolakowski, The Unethical Choice for Alameda County Superior Court Judge, Tries to Argue That California Campaigns Can Hire Out of State Telemarketers to Do Illegal Robodialing

Vote No for Victoria Kolakowski(b) No person shall operate an automatic dialing-announcing device except in accordance with this article. The use of such a device by any person, either individually or acting as an officer, agent, or employee of a person or corporation operating automatic dialing-announcing devices, is subject to this article.

(a) Whenever telephone calls are placed through the use of an automatic dialing-announcing device, the device may be operated only after an unrecorded, natural voice announcement has been made to the person called by the person calling. The announcement shall do all of the following:

(1) State the nature of the call and the name, address, and telephone number of the business or organization being represented, if any.

(2) Inquire as to whether the person called consents to hear the prerecorded message of the person calling.


For the past few weeks I’ve been reporting on Alameda Superior Court Candidate Victoria Kolakowski’s illegal robodialing she is currently using as part of her unethical campaign for Alameda Superior Court Judge.

Kolakowski interrupted my son’s baseball game a few Sunday’s back when she illegally robodialed my cell phone with this recorded message by Oakland City Attorney John Russo.

Currently the California PUC (where Kolakowski is a sitting law judge sworn to uphold the law) regulates robodialing in the state of California. As you can see from the California code above, robodialing people in the State of California is explicitly illegal unless first introduced by an unrecored “natural voice announcement” asking if you will allow it. The fact that Kolakowski is a sitting law judge at the very agency that regulates illegal robodials (while using them herself) is troubling to me. Does Kolakowski think that she is above the law? And is this the sort of person we’d want as a Superior Court Judge?

Last week KCBS reported on Kolakowski’s illegal robodialing here.

Apparently the Kolakowski campaign has gotten back to KCBS claiming that “one interpretation of the law” is that her robodials are not “technically” illegal because she hired someone to make the calls from outside of the State of California. From KCBS’s update:

“Kolakowski says her calls, that feature the Oakland city attorney promoting her local candidacy, are being placed from outside California and thus outside CPUC jurisdiction. Under one interpretation of the law, that would make them legal.”

So let me see if I get this straight. Even though robocalls are *explicitly* illegal in the State of California, a law judge at the California PUC (the very agency that is charged with enforcing this law) thinks that it’s ok to hire some political hack to make illegal calls from outside of the state into the state?

So then under this logic all *any* company has to do to illegal robodial people in California is simply have the calls originate from out of state? So any California insurance company or bank or telemarketing scam selling auto warranties or carpet cleaning company or mattresses company or whatever, can just hire some company to start blasting millions of robodials into California homes and this is hunky dory? How fast do you think the California PUC would shut down an auto warranty scam from Arkansas targeting California seniors with illegal robodials?

The California Code to me is clear that not only can California businesses or corporations or campaigns not make illegal robodials, that agents on their behalf also cannot.

If *anyone* can simply pay to have their calls done from another state, this means that the California law does absolutely *nothing* to protect our privacy from these unwanted intrusions into our lives and homes. Under Kolakowski’s interpretation, our law has no teeth.

California businesses (including campaigns) should be subject to California law.

The fact that a current law judge at the PUC would try to twist the law this way is enormously offensive to me. But I suppose that’s just politics as usual. Politicians get to cheat and get away with it.

Even if one could argue this case on a technicality, the spirit of the California law is clear. It was enacted to protect Californians from these unwanted calls. I’m disappointed that Kolakowski would stoop to this low level and hope that you will join me in voting against her in the upcoming race for Alameda Superior Court judge. Our public servants should obey both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Update: On Slashdot here.